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China Bouquet – Chinese Flower Arrangement

2018-07-09 | | Art China

Flowers bloom on tree branches, and on the skirts of young girls. Buy a bouquet anywhere and put it on your desk; it will freshen up the air for an entire day. 

But not only women love their flowers. From the royal family to ordinary people, men in Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties were also fond of wearing delicate flowers on their hair. Flower arrangement is one of the four most elegant things to do for man of letters, and the other three are incense burning, tea tasting as well as painting hanging. When they composed a poem while drinking, flowers were there for their appreciation; when they burnt cense and played music, flowers were there to sing odes to. Lu You said this in one of his poems: "I wear flowers, drink and dance in the spring breeze. Unlike Pang Weng, this is my way to seek deep meditation of Buddhism."

In Sui(581-c.618) and Tang dynasties, believers paid tribute to the Buddha with flowers. A flower exhibition called "Splendid Wonderland" was held during the reign of Li Yu, the last Southern Tang (937-975) emperor. From studies of litterateurs to flower sellers on the street, flower arrangement in China has a legacy of centuries. For each flower and leaf, each branch and vase, everything looks random but nothing ever is. Flowers and trees don't speak, but writers get to share their longings using the flowers, and liken people to flowers, which attribute further meanings to these amazing creatures.

Qu Yuan viewed himself as "an otherworldly orchid aromatic on its own". Tao Yuanming picked up chrysanthemum in his garden and enjoyed his carefree life. Liu Yuxi sang about the beauty of peony that could top an entire country and had the capital city fallen on her knees. Zhou Dunyi loved nothing other than the lotus, which grows out of mud but remains dustless. Wang Anshi chanted about wintersweet that holds his head high against snow and frost. With flowers for every season and for every situation, Chinese flower arrangement use different containers such as vases and pots for different styles. 

With the seven most-used flower containers—vase, plate, bowl, jar, tank, basket and pot—traditional Chinese flower arrangement follows a casual style. A work should have properly-distributed, line-based highs and lows in its layout. Less is more, and what's left unsaid is more meaningful than anything else. It should be elegant and smooth, highlighting the connotations and seasons of flowers with consideration of how the work and its ambience fit each other.

Flower arrangement went through a long journey in China—majestic in the heyday of Tang, simple and elegant in Song, until eventually, became its own legit, diversified art in Ming (1368-1644). Even in our day, traditional flower arrangement is still there to decorate people's lives and beautify their hearts.

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